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That great numbers are in this way of deceiving themselves is certain. There is scarce a man in the world, who has entirely got over all regards, hopes, and fears, concerning God and a future state; and these apprehensions in the generality, bad as we are, prevail in considerable degrees: yet men will and can be wicked, with calmness and thought; we see they are. There must, therefore, be some method of making it sit a little easy upon their minds, which, in the superstitious, is those indulgences and atonements before mentioned, and this self-deceit of another kind in persons of another character. And both these proceed from a certain unfairness of mind, a peculiar inward dishonesty; the direct contrary to that simplicity which our Saviour recommends, under the notion of "becoming little children," as a necessary qualification for our entering into the kingdom of heaven.
But to conclude: How much soever men differ in the course of life they prefer, and in their ways of palliating and excusing their vices to themselves; yet all agree in the one thing, desiring to "die the death of the righteous." This is surely remarkable. The observation may be extended further, and put thus: even without determining what that is, which we call guilt or innocence, there is no man but would choose, after having had the pleasure or advantage of a vicious action, to be free of the guilt of it, to be in the state of an innocent man. This shows at least a disturbance, and implicit dissatisfaction in vice. If we inquire into the grounds of it, we shall find it proceeds partly from an immediate sense of having done evil; and partly from an apprehension, that this inward sense shall, one time or other, be seconded by a higher judgment, upon which our whole being depends. Now, to suspend and drown this sense, and these apprehensions, be it by the hurry of business or of pleasure, or by superstition, or moral equivocations, this is in a manner one and the same, and makes no alteration at all in the nature of our case. Things and actions are what they are, and the conse
quences of them will be what they will be: why then should we desire to be deceived? As we are reasonable creatures, and have any regard to ourselves, we ought to lay these things plainly and honestly before our mind, and upon this, act as you please, as you think most fit; make that choice, and prefer that course of life, which you can justify to yourselves, and which sits most easy upon your own mind. It will immediately appear, that vice cannot be the happiness, but must, upon the whole, be the misery, of such a creature as man; a moral, an accountable agent. Superstitious observances, self-deceit, though of a more refined sort, will not, in reality, at all amend matters with us. And the result of the whole can be nothing else, but that with simplicity and fairness we "keep innocency, and take heed unto the thing that is right; for this alone shall bring a man peace at the last."
MATTHEW V. 43, 44.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.
SINCE perfect goodness in the Deity is the principle, from whence the universe was brought into being, and by which it is preserved; and since general benevolence is the great law of the whole moral creation; it is a question which immediately occurs, "Why had man implanted in him a principle, which appears the direct contrary to benevolence? Now, the foot upon which inquiries of this kind should be treated is this: To take human nature as it is, and the circumstances in which it is placed as they are; and then consider the correspondence between that nature and those circumstances, or what course of action and behaviour, respecting those circumstances, any particular affection or passion leads us to. This I mention, to distinguish the matter now before us from disquisitions of quite another kind; namely, "Why we are not made more perfect creatures, or placed in better circum
stances?" These being questions which we have not, that I know of, any thing at all to do with. God Almighty undoubtedly foresaw the disorders, both natural and moral, which would happen in this state of things. If upon this we set ourselves to search and examine why he did not prevent them; we shall, I am afraid, be in danger of running into somewhat worse than impertinent curiosity. But upon this to examine, how far the nature which he hath given us hath a respect to those circumstances, such as they are; how far it leads us to act a proper part in them; plainly belongs to us: and such inquiries are in many ways of excellent use. Thus, the thing to be considered is not, "Why we were not made of such a nature, and placed in such circumstances, as to have no need of so harsh and turbulent a passion as resentment;" but, taking our nature and condition as being what they are, "Why, or for what end, such a passion was given us:" And this chiefly in order to show, what are the abuses of it.
The persons who laid down for a rule, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy," made short work with this matter. They did not, it seems, perceive any thing to be disapproved in hatred more than in good will: and, according to their system of morals, our enemy was the proper natural object of one of those passions, as our neighbor was of the other of them.
This was all they had to say, and all they thought needful to be said, upon the subject. But this cannot be satisfactory; because hatred, malice, and revenge, are directly contrary to the religion we profess, and to the nature and reason of the thing itself. Therefore, since no passion God hath endued us with can be in itself evil; and yet since men frequently indulge a passion in such ways and degrees, that at length it becomes quite another thing from what it was originally in our nature; and those vices of malice and revenge, in particular, take their occasion from the natural passion of resentment: it will be needful to trace this up to its original, that we
may see, "What it is in itself, as placed in our nature by its Author;" from which it will plainly appear, "For what ends it was placed there." And when we know what the passion is in itself, and the ends of it, we shall easily see, "What are the abuses of it, in which malice and revenge consist;" and which are so strongly forbidden in the text, by the direct contrary being commanded.
Resentment is of two kinds: Hasty and sudden, or settled and deliberate. The former is called anger, and often passion; which, though a general word, is frequently appropriated and confined to the particular feeling, sudden anger, as distinct from deliberate resentment, malice, and revenge. In all these words is usually implied somewhat vicious: somewhat unreasonable as to the occasion of the passion, or immoderate as to the degree or duration of it. But that the natural passion itself is indifferent, St Paul has asserted in that precept, "Be ye angry and sin not ;"* which, though it is by no means to be understood as an encouragement to indulge ourselves in anger, the sense being certainly this, "Though ye be angry, sin not; " yet here is evidently a distinction made, between anger and sin, between the natural passion and sinful anger.
Sudden anger, upon certain occasions, is mere instinct; as merely so, as the disposition to close our eyes upon the apprehension of somewhat falling into them; and no more necessarily implies any degree of reason. I say, necessarily for, to be sure, hasty, as well as deliberate anger, may be occasioned by injury or contempt; in which cases, reason suggests to our thoughts that injury and contempt, which is the occasion of the passion : But I am speaking of the former only so far as it is to be distinguished from the latter. The only way in which our reason and understanding can raise anger, is by representing to our mind injustice or injury of some kind or other. Now, momentary anger is frequently raised, not only without any real, but without any apparent rea
* Ephes. iv. 26.